The Start of One Girl's Journey to Fitness

Growing up, I tried pretty much every sport imaginable. At least briefly, I played soccer, softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and went to a whopping one swim team practice. I ended up loving soccer and softball, playing both for many years throughout elementary and middle school. However, when I got to high school, I realized athletics wasn’t for me. As a kid, I was extremely competitive, not afraid to play rough or criticize the other team. But, as I got older, games and matches stressed me out more than they excited me, and so I quit. And when I stopped playing sports, I stopped exercising.

Fast forward a couple of years, and it’s the summer before my junior year of high school. I decided I wanted to start running. So, either before or after work, I would go on the occasional run. But once school started up again, I would stop. This occurred for the next three summers. I never had the drive to build exercise into my daily routine, and so I never stuck with it. 

Fast forward another year, and I just arrived home after my first year of college. I never exercised at school, never went to the KAC, but I did walk everywhere. Furthermore, I never watched what I ate or tried to eat particularly healthily, but I did try not to keep snacks in my room. That’s not to say I didn’t eat them. If I wanted cookies, I would walk to the market and buy some. I just tried to not have them on hand.

When I got home for the summer, I felt better about myself but I didn’t think much of it. I soon realized that walking around and not snacking constantly made me feel more confident physically as well as healthier and more energetic. This is not to say that one should exercise just to feel better physically, or that feeling more confident physically will, or should, make you feel better about yourself. This is just the experience I had. And I wanted to keep feeling this way. So I started taking care of my body, moving it and eating better.

I began by taking small steps to be a healthier person. I started running in the mornings before work or going to the gym after work a few days a week. I was lucky enough to meet with a personal trainer. She helped me figure out my goals and learn what equipment to use at the gym. Once I knew what to do at the gym, I went more, because I was more confident and less intimidated by the equipment and all of the people who knew how to use it. I started cooking and meal-prepping healthy lunches for work. I enjoyed ice cream with friends but didn’t eat dessert just to eat it. I learned to take more time to prepare a nutritious and filling snack for when I got home from work, instead of eating chips mindlessly out of the bag. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t satisfy a craving when I had one, I just learned (and am still learning) how to be more mindful of what I am putting in my body. These small changes made a big difference in how I felt about health and nutrition. I started feeling better, knowing I was making an effort to take care of my body. I also started to understand that exercising and eating well aren’t just about losing weight, but also about creating a healthy body for your current and future self. 

My mom is my role model for many things and for many reasons, one of them being health. She takes care of her body but also understands that you can’t, and shouldn’t, let exercise and nutrition control your life. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with wanting to lose weight, but I understand that this can be a slippery slope—one that, over the summer, my parents thought I was starting to slide down. It’s easy to start letting numbers define you. I learned, and am still learning, to view exercise and eating well as good for my body and for my long term health, not just good for lowering the number on the scale. I learned, and am still learning, that just because I eat one “cheat” meal, it doesn’t mean that I need to eat super clean for the rest of the week or that I need to go for an extra-long run. My “fitness journey,” the term thrown around on the internet, is just starting, and thus I am still navigating it—especially now that I am back at school.

Over the summer, I was determined to keep up with exercising and eating well once I got back to school. And I have done a pretty good job of sticking to that goal. I am by no means an expert on health and nutrition, and I only know what works for me and my body, but these are some things that have helped me stick to exercising and eating well at school. Maybe they will help you too. 

 

1. I planned what days I would go to the KAC. 

By telling myself I would try to get a workout in on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, I knew which days were my “gym days.” Just as I associate Tuesdays with my 9:40 am Microeconomics class, I associate Tuesdays with going to the KAC during common hour with my friend Piper. Just as I associate Saturday evenings with going to chapter meetings for my sorority, I associate Saturday mornings with lifting with Megan.

 

2. I try to go to the KAC with a buddy. 

As I said, I often go with my friends Megan and Piper. Even though we are each doing our own thing, it’s nice to see a familiar face and to have someone there to hype you up.

 

3. I found healthy snacks I enjoy eating. 

I’m someone who likes to block off a big chunk of time to sit down in ascension and grind my work out. But, after sitting for a few hours writing a paper or studying for an exam, I get hungry. My favorite snack to bring with me is a rice cake with either almond butter or hummus. This snack helps me focus when I start to feel tired or get that afternoon lag. I noticed that I can focus better after eating it, rather than a bag of chips, because of the protein it contains. It actually fills me up, and then I can continue to study or read productively with replenished energy. 

 

4. I get creative in Peirce. 

Last year, I often didn’t feel like waiting in long lines, so I would grab something easy like pizza. This year, I have the patience to wait. I also started adding random sides or vegetables to the main dishes that add nutritional value to my meal. When I get pasta, I throw in a bunch of spinach from the salad bar. When I make a salad, I add some of the side salads that are waiting next to the vegetarian station. When I’ve finished eating but still want something to finish off the meal, I’ll grab a rice cake with peanut butter instead of ice cream. However, when there are rice crispy treats, I always take one. I will never not eat a Peirce rice crispy treat.

My newfound interest in fitness and nutrition has been and always will be a journey. I had to work, and am still working, to make exercise a habit. I had to learn, and am still learning, how to pay more attention to the food I am putting into my body. I had to remind myself, and still need to remind myself, that numbers aren’t everything, that it’s ok to eat a “cheat” meal, and that it’s not a big deal if I miss one workout. I’m excited to keep growing, taking care of my body, and reaching my fitness goals. But I’m also excited (and determined) to live my life and not let it revolve around exercise and nutrition and the physical results I hope to see. 

 

Image Credit: Feature,1, 2